Farewell 2020, it's been a hell of a year, and obviously not always in a good way. But let's forget the spike protein in the room for a moment and just focus on the PC gear that has meant the most to us this year, as we announce the winners of the PC Gamer Hardware Awards 2020.
Over the last week or so we've been listing the nominees in each of the 11 categories of gaming hardware greatness, and now it is time to ditch the suspense and celebrate the best gear of the year. Some of the winners are absolutely obvious, and you will have been able to tell who was going to walk away with the title the instant you saw the category. But in some places it's been such a hard-fought battle for supremacy that even we've been arguing over the final lineup until the 11th hour.
But first it is worth reflecting on the fact that, despite everything else that has been absorbing our bodies and soul this year, we've seen some of the finest gaming hardware ever released over the last 12 months. From the best consumer processors to ever grace our test bench, the most powerful graphics cards and sexiest gaming laptops, to simple pleasures like stunning gaming mice and headsets... we've had it all.
The biggest battles we've seen this year have been between the usual triumvirate, with AMD and Intel going at it over CPUs and Nvidia and AMD giving it some in the graphics card head-to-head. It was meant to be a three-way fight this year, with Intel getting its own discrete GPU out into the wild, but while the Xe silicon has arrived, there's still no actual Iris Xe Max available in retail.
But which of the PC tech giants have come out on top this year, and who else is grabbing the plaudits? Well, it's just about time to find out...
Best Graphics Card 2020
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
As the first of the new Ampere generation of graphics cards the sheer performance of the RTX 3080 has blown us away. At near half the price of the top chip from the previous generation, the RTX 2080 Ti, it absolutely destroys it in terms of gaming performance. As a generation uplift that's pretty staggering. The RTX 3080 has also moved the ray tracing game along, to the point where the performance penalty has almost been negated. AMD's RX 6800 XT ran it close, but the added potential of ray tracing and DLSS is too big an offering to ignore.
AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT
Somehow AMD did it. From a position well behind Nvidia in the last generation of GPUs, with no high-end card to call its own, AMD has managed to create a card with performance parity to Nvidia's flagship Ampere chip and for a slightly lower sticker price too. That's a hell of a catchup move from the red team, and shows what progress it's made on the GPU side.
Best CPU of 2020
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
The fact that this $299 CPU produces similar gaming performance to the $540 Core i9 10900K is quite the feat and shows how far AMD has come. It also squeezes in support for PCIe 4.0, and comes with its own cooler, making this a formidable value proposition. It may 'only' be a 6-core, 12-thread chip, but that's going to be fine for gaming for a while yet. It's a frankly fantastic gaming CPU and will be the base of many a rig over the next few years.
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
If you need that little bit 'extra' in your processor, then it's hard to get away from AMD's flagship 12-core, 24-thread processor. It delivers in gaming and also handles more serious applications without breaking into a sweat. With a base clock of 3.7GHz and a boost of 4.8GHz, this is a mightily impressive chip.
Best Virtual Reality Headset of 2020
Oculus Quest 2
This one came as a bit of a surprise to us, purely in how much we enjoy this headset as an all-round affordable alternative to a resolutely PC VR one. The specs sheet isn't as modest as you might expect, either: 1832 x 1920 per eye resolution, 90Hz refresh rate (in supported titles, otherwise it's a 72Hz standard), a new fast-switch LCD panel, and a snappy onboard Snapdragon XR2 processor.
Best Microphone 2020
Razer Seiren Mini
Out of all the budget microphones we messed with this year, the tiny Razer Seiren Mini left the biggest impression. This cute $50 pill-shaped microphone is criminally easy to use and sounds just as good as microphones double (and some cases triple) the sound. It may not have 'luxuries' like a mute button, or any controls at all, but it means even a total n00b can completely change their audio production simply by plugging it in. And it comes in powder pink, and looks frickin' awesome.
Shure MV7 Podcast Microphone
Shure's first hybrid USB/XLR microphone blurs the line between consumer and pro-grade audio. The MV7 is one of the most versatile microphones you can pick up right now. It's also one of the most expensive mics, too. Though, if you value sound quality and cost be damned, Anyone serious about audio shouldn't pass over this incredible sounding microphone.
Best Gaming Motherboard 2020
Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Dark Hero
Asus has taken the release of AMD's Ryzen 5000 chips as an opportunity to take another look at the X570 chipset, and the result is one of the most-impressive X570 motherboards yet. Designed with Zen 3 in mind, this admittedly pricey $400 motherboard is capable of hitting higher overclocks and better memory speeds than we've seen with older boards. It also features a clean design while packing an incredible feature list.
MSI MAG B460M Mortar WiFi
Proving that you don't need to spend a fortune to get a decent LGA1200 motherboard, this $125 B460-powered offering for Intel 10th Gen processors is laser-focused on providing great value for money. It also checks off the things you actually need in a quality gaming motherboard, including speedy ethernet connectivity and support for Wi-Fi 6. It's a lot of motherboard for not a lot of cash basically.
Best Solid State Drive 2020
Sabrent Rocket PCIe 4.0 2TB
Built around the Phison E16 controller and Toshiba 96-layer TLC NAND flash, the Sabrent Rocket PCIe 4.0 SSD takes well-known components and packages them together at a great price. You'll hit sequential read and write figures of 5GB/s and 4.4GB/s, as well as manage impressive 4K random figures as well. This is a next-gen drive that you can pick up for last-gen prices, and that alone makes it a knockout option for us. You can also get it in slightly more affordable 1TB and 500GB spins as well.
Samsung 980 Pro 500GB
Samsung has been a brand to watch out for in SSDs for years now, and it didn't disappoint when it let its new drive loose on the world. With peak sequential reads of 7GB/s and writes of 5GB/s, this is a drive for anyone that simply wants the best performance around. It is a tad on the expensive side, but you do absolutely get what you pay for. We'd recommend grabbing the 1TB drive over the 512GB model though, as it offers better bang for your buck, and room for all those massive games that keep appearing.
Best Gaming Mouse 2020
Razer DeathAdder Pro V2
A little more reserved than the Naga Pro, but just as nippy with a 20k sensor. The DeathAdder Pro V2 manages to marry its no-frills 6 button setup, and simple ergonomics with the flawless tracking Razer prides itself on. It's not the lightest, stepping in to the ring at 2.9oz, but it sure packs a punch. Don't punch it back, though. Still, it's big enough for larger hands, unlike the G203, but does come with a much mightier price tag.
One of the most affordable big brand gaming mice around today, the G203 does the bare minimum and does it in style. It's sleek, it's light, and it's certainly one for smaller hands. But into that tiny shell, it manages to pack a more than capable 8,000 DPI, and sports enough buttons for the standard FPS player, though it may be unacceptable to an MMO enthusiast. Still, you can't argue at such impeccable quality for that price—plus, you still even get tri-zone Lightsync RGB.
Best Gaming Keyboard 2020
Logitech G915 TKL
A miniaturised version of the G915, the G915 TKL cuts off the numpad to offer a bit more space for your gaming mouse to manoeuvre. Besides that, it offers the same great Logitech wireless connectivity as its bigger sibling and features a decent 40-hour battery life with its per-key RGB lighting ablaze.
Mountain Everest Max
A newcomer in the gaming keyboard game, Mountain is going big with the Everest Max, as the name suggests. A modular design means you can switch the numpad from right to left of the main board, and a media control panel with customisable display. Even the key switches are customisable thanks to a hot-swappable PCB. If you want a board with plenty of customisation options, the Everest Max is it. It's just incredibly expensive for the full package, but it's still great to see a newcomer stepping up to the plate.
Best Gaming Headset 2020
Razer BlackShark V2 Pro
Razer's revamp of the classic BlackShark headset is an incredible sounding wired gaming headset at the shockingly low price of $100. The TriForce Titanium 50mm drivers rivals some of the best sounding, and more expensive headsets on the market. The BlackShark V2 Pro is the cable-free version and, while it is more expensive, the lag-free high-res wireless connection makes for an outstanding gaming experience with THX Audio as standard.
HyperX Cloud II Wireless
The Cloud II headset easily makes the cut by being another killer sounding wireless gaming headset. And for $150, with excellent battery life, it's a lightweight set of quality cans and really comfortable to boot. The original Cloud II was an absolute classic, and with a new wireless version HyperX has updated the headset hero for 2020. It provides excellent, balanced sound and a no fuss, no muss user experience for a great price.
Best Gaming Laptop 2020
Dell G5 15 SE
This fantastically priced Dell machine is a seriously affordable all-AMD gaming laptop. With awesome CPU performance, you're looking at great multitasking, productivity, and the ability to handle CPU heavy games without a hitch. And it cracks out around 63 FPS average in graphic intensive games, too, thanks to the rarely seen RX 5600M GPU. The 144Hz doesn't go amiss if you want your reflexes to matter, but there are some drawbacks with the weak built in sound system. With a nice headset, you shouldn't even notice it, though. Besides, you get a nice 1TB chunk of SSD storage to keep your gaming library downloaded on, too. And for under $900 it's stunning value.
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
Another great AMD CPU rocking laptop here, and though it's maybe a little expensive, it does manage a good FPS average with ray tracing off. It's RTX 2060 does get a little peaky with ray tracing on, but if you turn the settings down a tad, it should see you right. It even sports an above average 120Hz panel, as well as a whole 1TB of NVMe SSD storage, coupled with a nice 16GB of RAM. Zephyrus models are genuinely gorgeous machines, well built and with a classy aesthetic, but don't be fooled: They can pass for work laptops, the noise of the fans will undoubtedly alert the boss to your shenanigans.
Best Gaming Monitor 2020
LG Ultragear 27GN950
LG managed to make a display that features its own gorgeous 4K NanoIPS panel, a 144Hz refresh rate, and HDR for only $800. This is a feature list that we'd normally be expecting to cost us well over the $1,000 mark. The panel itself is beautiful, as you'd expect from LG's own manufacturing capabilities, and is as colourful as you could with. Pair this with one of those fancy new GPUs you managed to snag (or are planning to snag), and high-end 4K gaming is within your reach.
Acer Predator X38
This massive 37.5-inch curved ultrawide display has a speedy overclocked refresh rate of 175Hz and is one of the best looking 21:9 experiences on the market. It's also one of the highest resolution ultrawides you'll find, rocking a 3840 x 1600 native res. That gives you 4K width and a vertical resolution which all makes both gaming and productivity stuff a joy on this stunning screen. If you're looking for total immersion for gaming and watching movies, Acer's X38 is a pricey option but worth every penny.